As might be expected, Divina's dining comes with a Continental flair. MSC has gone out of its way to add American standards such as hot dogs and hamburgers to its buffets, but you're better off choosing European favorites. The pizza throughout the ship is delicious; while the Eataly pies are particularly authentic, the buffet version is also tasty and even comes in a breakfast version, topped with an egg.
Speaking of Eataly: We'd come back on Divina again, just to eat in the three restaurants that fall under its umbrella. While the Eataly steakhouse was sublime and the pizza addictive, it was Ristorante Italia that blew us away. The a la carte Italian menu is sophisticated, and the execution sublime. The wine list here is primarily Italian, as you'd expect, and the service beyond knowledgeable. It's by far one of our favorite specialty restaurants at sea. We also enjoyed our wine pairing meal at the strangely under-promoted Galaxy Disco Restaurant.
In the main dining room, we saw a significant improvement from the first time we were onboard -- thanks to a subtle tweaking of the menus and recipes. Pasta that was once overcooked and under-seasoned is now al dente and delightfully flavorful. Soups and desserts were delicious, as always. (One small gripe we have: Fresh black pepper is not offered, which we found highly unusual.) We also enjoyed the staff who were happy to accommodate seating requests and dietary issues; vegetarian and gluten-free meals are available in all venues. Keep in mind that portions are European sized, but if you want more of any course, just ask. The meal pace can also seem slow to Americans, but the entertainment offerings are paced accordingly so you never feel like you're missing out if you linger over dinner.
* May require additional fees
Black Crab (Decks 5 and 6): The larger of Divina's two main dining rooms, Black Crab is decorated in black, gold and purple with marble touches throughout. There are numerous tables for two, as well as plenty of seats with views.
Villa Rossa (Deck 6): The second main dining room, Villa Rossa, with its gold, black and red color scheme, has sweeping panoramic views from Divina's aft.
Both restaurants feature the same menus and hours. Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., lunch from noon to 2 p.m. and dinner at two set seating times -- 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. -- though times vary occasionally. All passengers are assigned either early or late dinner. Waiter-served meals are available every day, including when the ship is in port, and is a popular option among the international clientele.
Breakfast begins with waiter-offered pastries. Menu items include kippers and smoked salmon, as well as eggs prepared any way, breakfast meats (yes, there's American-style crispy bacon), waffles and pancakes.
Lunch has a choice of brunch offerings, appetizers, soups, pasta, entrees and dessert. The menu includes eggs Benedict, shrimp cocktail, chicken noodle soup, choose your own pasta, fish and chips, vegetable curry, French fries (trans-fat free), soup and salad combos and desserts such as make your own sundae, cheesecake and chocolate cake. There's also an Express Lunch where you're guaranteed to get in and out within 30 minutes.
Dinner consists of five courses: starter, soup or salad, pasta, entree and dessert. Healthy options are identified on the menu each night, complete with calorie, fat and protein breakdowns, and every menu has vegetarian selections. Those with specific dietary restrictions should notify the line when they book. MSC recommends they follow up with the maitre d' upon check-in.
A sample menu could include a choice of shrimp cocktail or zucchini mille-feuille for appetizers; followed by fire roasted tomato soup, New England clam chowder or chilled rhubarb soup or spinach salad. Entrees might include fettuccine Alfredo, maccheroni alla boscaiola, lime and creole-spiced blackened hoki fish, dijon and herb-crusted rack of lamb, cacao-dusted pork tenderloin served with red bliss potatoes and grilled asparagus or a fried vegetable wrap. Desserts could include cannoli, ice cream, a cheese plate, molten chocolate cake or cheesecake.
There's an "always available" dinner menu, as well, with fresh fruit, Caesar salad, pasta with marinara sauce, pan-seared salmon, broiled chicken breast and grilled beef striploin.
Calumet and Manitou Buffets (Deck 14): Manitou and Calumet, located on Deck 14, are Divina's casual buffet options. The two adjoin, essentially forming one mammoth buffet area serving the same items; there's a handy map that gives you the full picture of where everything is. Seating is either at tables (mostly for four or larger), high tables or bars.
All in all, we found the buffet to be crowded but to have plenty of tasty options. Servers were quick to clear away plates, and we didn't see the piles of dirty dishes that we've experienced on other lines. Hot foods were piping hot, as was the coffee, and cool items were kept cool. Because of the international crowd, your fellow passengers might not be as clued in to the tradition of queueing, so bring your patience.
At breakfast, served from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., diners can choose from standard breakfast fare, such as eggs, bacon, pancakes and toast. There's also a huge cheese selection, available all day, and European staples like beans, bangers and muesli. Early risers can grab a continental breakfast from 6 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., and those who show up from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. can also get a continental breakfast. While there is no egg station within the buffet, there's a cart for made-to-order omelets outside at the Aqua Park.
For lunch, from noon to 4 p.m., options include burgers, fries, stir-fry and a carving station. The carving station routinely offers the best protein option; for example, chefs carved a whole, fresh turkey during one lunch. And, of course, there's plenty of pasta; up here, we found it al dente and tasty.
The buffet includes a pizzeria, open from noon to 4:30 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Pizza options include the standards (margherita or cheese) and some unusual options (frankfurter). Divina offers an afternoon buffet, with limited options that include fruit, cheese and salad, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and a make-your-own-sandwich bar is open from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and again from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Dinner, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., includes more pasta, a carving station and some tasty curry options that are quite flavorful; try the lentils.
Top Sail Lounge (Deck 15): The Yacht Club Lounge has buffet snacks throughout the day, but is only open to Yacht Club passengers. In the morning, you'll find gravlax, cereal, yogurt and rolls, as well as delicious sweets and pastries. At lunch and through the afternoon until Happy Hour, this changes to light bites and canapes. A pianist plays in the evening. This space has sweeping views, and is an absolutely civilized place to read or have a drink.
Le Muse (Deck 15): The Yacht Club's restaurant is a jewel box of a space. Oddly, it's not within the Yacht Club complex, but on the other side of the ship, near the Garden Bar and pool; thick orange curtains shield patrons from the view of sunbathers.
The restaurant provides full-service breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the morning, you'll find waffles, pancakes, eggs Benedict, breakfast meats, eggs and omelets made to order. Lunch has a choice of soups and salads, sandwiches and entrees such as fish and chips or seafood tagliatelle. Dinner might have snapper ceviche or escargot as appetizers; roasted sweet pepper and mozzarella soup; and risotto with herb emulsion as pasta. Entrees on gala night were roasted cold-water lobster tail, chateaubriand with truffle-Madeira reduction and Mexican vegetable tacos.
The dinner menu also has a healthy section where calorie counts and nutritional breakdowns are given. Sample dishes are amberjack tartare, rotisserie chicken and strawberry mousse. There is also an "available anytime" menu with Caesar salad, French onion soup, penne pasta in tomato basil sauce, skillet-fried Norwegian salmon, broiled chicken breast and tournedos of beef tenderloin.
The menus in Le Muse may appear to look like those in the main dining room, but the execution is on an entirely different level. Our pasta at lunch was cooked perfectly, as were all the dishes at dinner. Service is superb and -- you get fresh black pepper. The tables are much further apart than in the Black Crab or Villa Rossa, and the portions even seem bigger.
One Pool Bar and Grill (Deck 18): The Yacht Club's pool bar is perhaps the best place to dine al fresco. With plenty of tables and umbrella shade, the grill offers breakfast options such as made-to-order omelets; pasta, a salad bar and light choices like chicken in green curry at lunch; and canapes in the afternoon. Service there is extraordinarily friendly.
Snacks: Croissants are served starting at 6:30 a.m. at both the Divina Bar on Deck 5 (gluten-free versions) and Caffe Italia on Deck 7 (regular). Self-service soft ice cream is available daily from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Aqua Park on Deck 14. At night, free popcorn is served in small bags that you can eat in front of the big screen, or just take as a snack.
Room Service: A continental room service breakfast is available; you'll find the menu on a door hanger that you place outside your cabin the night before. Choices include cereals, pastries, yogurt and museli, fruits and juices. Ours arrived a half-hour earlier than we requested.
A full-service room service menu with sandwiches, cheese plates and salads is available 24 hours a day. There's a $3.50 charge between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Our mid-afternoon order came quickly.
Eataly Steakhouse (Deck 7); a la carte: Entering the Eataly steakhouse, we were a little taken aback by the modern and cheerful decor; you just don't expect a steakhouse to look like a well-lit cafeteria. Still, it's the same Eataly experience you find at the Manzo restaurant section of the Eataly food emporiums in New York and Chicago and it's mimicked here. Don't let the clear chairs fool you; a meal here is a real treat. Outstanding appetizers included the prosciutto plate ($12) and the Caesar salad ($8.50). Our seafood pasta was perfectly al dente ($8.50) and the tenderloin ($25), served with a choice of sauces, was melt in your mouth delicious. Finish with bomboloni, Italy's version of beignets ($4.90).
Ristorante Italia (Deck 7); a la carte: The second part of the three-pronged Eataly experience is just next door, in a quiet and well-decorated space that's perfect for date night or a leisurely lunch. Seating here is limited to a handful of tables so reservations are a must. This is where we found the best dining of our cruise; really, if you're a foodie, it can't be missed as the choices are yards beyond what you find elsewhere on the ship.
All meals here start with a complimentary glass of prosecco, and it just gets better from there. The tuna tartare came heaping and well-seasoned, and the roast rock octopus came perfectly cooked on a bed of cannellini bean puree. The pasta courses were the standout items on the ship; don't miss the handmade tortello, filled with pesto and served with mashed potatoes and green beans (although our companion's pumpkin gnocchi, topped with a duck ragu, was also incredible). Both fish dishes on the menu -- lettuce-wrapped grilled grouper and panko-covered amberjack with an orange preserve -- were outstanding. Prices range from $8 for appetizers and pastas to $12–$20 for entrees. Prix fixe menus are also available, either with wine pairings ($59) or without ($35). We would sail on Divina again just to have another meal here.
La Cantina di Bacco (Deck 7); a la carte: Open for lunch and dinner, Divina's wine bar also serves as its pizza kitchen, where you can order Eataly pizza. The menu of options is wide ranging but all feature crust that tastes like it just came from Naples. Seriously addicting and -- even better -- you can order it via room service between 8 p.m. and midnight. Eataly pizzas range from $8 to $13. If you have a group, go for the one meter pizza ($21).
Sports Bar (Deck 7); a la carte: Billed as the American restaurant, the Sports Bar serves food that goes well with watching the game -- in other words, fried and unhealthy. Options include buffalo chicken wings ($7), a BBQ bacon cheddar burger ($7) or an artery-clogging sampler plate with mozzarella sticks, onion rings, chicken nuggets, coconut shrimp and wings ($12).
Piazza del Doge (Deck 7); a la carte: Gelato is sold at the Piazza del Doge on Deck 7. A small cup costs $2. We found it refreshing, although of surprisingly average quality. Piazza del Doge also has sweets and cupcakes, ranging from 60 cents to $2.50. (You can also get gelato at the Tritone Bar on Deck 14 in the Aqua Park.)
Galaxy Disco Restaurant (Deck 16); a la carte or prix fixe ($25, $35 and $61): We admit that we didn't know what to expect at this restaurant, billed as "trendy," up in the Galaxy Disco. But it turned out to be one of the best seats in the house, particularly at sunset. The space, high atop the ship, has wall-to-wall windows and light alternative music plays in the background. The menu is Mediterranean fusion. Items can be ordered a la carte, or as part of three prix fixe options.
We went with Galaxy, the seven-course wine pairing meal ($61). While some of the wines were fairly pedestrian -- Kendall Jackson, Chateau St. Michelle -- the Italian offerings were downright exciting. Dishes included amberjack sushi and marinated anchovies in a soy lime dip; seared diver scallops with porcini mushrooms and fried leeks; fregola sarda -- Sardinian pasta pearls with clams, cherry tomatoes and tuna roe; tagliolini with lobster; turbot mille-feuille; tournedos of Angus beef with caramelized chicory leaves and port wine reduction; and molten chocolate cake with vanilla sauce. The entire experience took two hours, so don't order that menu unless you're prepared to spend some time with it.
A la carte appetizers and pastas range from $7.50 to $9. Entrees are $12 to $20. The three-course prix fixe meal is $25 and the five-course version is $35 (neither of these come with wine).
Nutella Cart (Deck 14); a la carte: A small Nutella cart near the Aqua Park encourages passengers to give into their sweet cravings. A crepe costs $3.90 and there are sometimes two-for-one specials.